Standing by his locker, it was clear this night was special. Only the preseason? Not after the path he’d taken to get here.
The last time Polk scored was Dec. 29. He was in San Antonio, playing one final game for the Washington Huskies, who ended up on the losing end of a 67-56 shootout against Baylor in the Alamo Bowl. At the time, it seemed like Polk was a sure bet to get drafted. It was just a matter of when. But because of a shoulder injury, teams passed on him.
And passed again.
And passed again.
As an undrafted free agent, Polk became the one making the decision, and he chose Philadelphia. For the last four months, he’s tried to prove himself. Sometime between now and 9 p.m., he’ll find out if it was enough.
“It’ll be nerve-wracking,” Polk said. “You never know. Hopefully I’m still here… still be part of this great organization.”
Against the Jets, he carried 14 times for 61 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown. Polk shot up the middle, took on defensive tackle Marcus Dixon head-on, spun off him and scampered into the end zone.
“I really don’t even remember it,” he said afterwards. “…When I got to the sideline, I still couldn’t believe it. I had to sit down and just really gather my thoughts, like ‘Man, I really just scored.’ I still can’t believe it now. I got the ball, my dream come true.”
As for his shoulder, Polk concedes that he’ll have to undergo surgery, but doesn’t see the need for that to take place anytime soon. He’s answered questions about the injury all summer. It’s almost as if he has a response recorded and just plays it anytime someone asks.
“I know there’s a concern with my shoulder, but to me, I don’t even think about it because I played three years with it,” Polk said. “Never missed a practice, never missed a game, so it’s really not an issue to me. I’m still going to run the same, whether it’s the first carry or the last carry.”
Polk provides a unique skill set. LeSean McCoy makes people miss. Dion Lewis is cut from the same mold. And we’re still trying to figure out what Bryce Brown’s style will be. But Polk is a bruiser. He doesn’t shy away from contact. He’s probably the best pass blocker of any of the backs. And he caught 79 balls in college. His best chance of making the team is if the Eagles keep four running backs and a fullback.
One of those running backs ahead of him is Brown, who has probably flashed enough upside to warrant a spot. He got the start against the Jets and ran around the left end for a 2-yard score. Brown also had a 10-yard run and three catches for 30 yards.
“It’s going to be an anxious feeling, but I’m going to try and just enjoy this time,” Brown said. “There’s not really much I can do now. Everything I’ve done so far, I hope that’s enough. Just wait and see what happens.”
Once a highly-touted recruit, Brown spent short stints at Tennessee and Kansas State before the Eagles selected him the seventh round of April’s draft. Until the preseason, he had just three carries in game action since the start of 2010.
“If I can think back and remember my first [preseason] game, I was really nervous, just because I hadn’t played in a long time,” Brown said. “It had been awhile since I had the pads on and in a live game setting. But after that, I kind of calmed down and realized this is still football.”
Andy Reid liked what he saw from both players.
“I was proud of those two,” he said. “They ran hard, and I thought the offensive line blocked well. [The Jets] have a good defense. They ran with power, strength and speed, and they ran fast and hard. I have to compliment them on that. They caught the ball well, too.”
Twenty-two Eagles will be told to turn in their playbooks before 9 p.m. tonight. All Polk and Brown can do now is wait. They’ll find out soon enough what’s in store next.
Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.